Why Germany Wants Peace Now.
The German Chancellor, at the height of his arrogance, appealed to the war-map of Europe as a proof of Germany’s triumph, and it is the war-map of Europe which provides by far the most effective answer to his master’s no less arrogant appeal for peace. The motives which underlie the German overtures are threefold. The increasing exhaustion of Austria-Hungary and Turkey, the menace of almost irreparable financial ruin and the prospect of genuine famine in the near future—famine such as must inevitably continue for many months, even after the conclusion of a tolerable peace—may at any moment reduce Germany’s two foremost Allies to desperation; and though there is no intention of breaking away from the alliance, and though Germany’s military control of her partners is more effective than ever, the consequences of the latter’s exhaustion are equally incalculable and disquieting. Moreover, Germany is well aware that any serious prolongation of the war will strain to the breaking-point the economic and financial resources of her own people and lead to the gravest social consequences. But, above all, Germany is desirous of peace because, while she realizes that she has definitely failed in her sea-aims, she has succeeded in her land-aims to a degree which seems to offer her ample compensation in Europe for her losses in Africa. It is true that she failed to occupy Paris or Petrograd, but—to use Mr. Henderson’s telling phrase—if she has failed to conquer her enemies, she has, at any rate, conquered her Allies. Today the whole world is aware that Germany alone stands between her Allies and ruin, that first Austria, then Turkey, then Hungary, and then Bulgaria, would have collapsed but for her effective military aid at an acute crisis, and that in each case her success has been made the pretext for concentrating the real direction of military operations in her own hands. Archdukes and Feldzeugmeisters may retain their ornamental positions, but the real “drive” comes from the German generals behind them. German instructors are everywhere; German drill and German methods are enforced in Budapest and Prague, in Agram and Sofia, in Constantinople and Damascus. German non-commissioned officers are lent to Austria and Bulgaria; German troops are sent to stiffen, and, if necessary, to fire upon, unreliable non-German regiments. Even the commissariat is more and more in German hands, and German officers and German agents are everywhere in the Dual Monarchy and the Balkans.
Germany’s economic control is scarcely less effective than her military predominance. Vienna and Budapest have long been financially at the mercy of Berlin, and the longer the war lasts the more complete will their economic thraldom become. Sofia receives at stated intervals the doles which alone enable her to continue fighting, and these are withheld whenever she shows signs of being refractory. Of Constantinople it is unnecessary to speak, since utter bankruptcy and liquidation are inevitable in Turkey, whatever may be the issue of the war.
Germany herself, as a compact State of nearly 70,000,000 inhabitants—organized, and organized, above all, for war, as no State has ever been in the history of the world—is already sufficiently formidable. But we find her also in effective control of the 52,000,000 inhabitants of Austria-Hungary and the 20,000,000 of Turkey, and the war has added to these the intermediate populations of the Balkan peninsula. Geographically, Germany and her satellites form a single unit, and the essence of the Pangerman plan is to weld it into a political and economic whole. The realization of “Central Europe”, as a federation of States under the Prussian hegemony—not falling, it may be, under any known category of States, but none the less effective for the business of this world—would not immediately supply the Germans with an equivalent for the loss of their overseas trade and of the possibilities of colonial expansion. But it would provide an incentive for the future, and a field for operations on a vast scale. The whole of the Danubian and Balkan countries, with the vast undeveloped riches of Asia Minor and Mesopotamia, would become Germany’s economic sphere of influence, and indeed, a virtual German monopoly; while Germany would be free to resume undisturbed, at the expense of the Slavonic and other non-German races
of the central and southeast European zone, that policy of colonization and Germanization which was one of the main features of her mediæval history.
During the last two years the design of Berlin-Bagdad has materialized under our very eyes. Its weak spot was Serbia, who, when war broke out, gallantly held the breach alone. The supineness of the Entente and the successive blunders of its political and military leaders muddled the attack upon the naval base of Cattaro, lost us the Danube front, with its infinite possibilities of striking at the vitals of the Central Powers, made a present to Austria of the strategic point of Mt. Lovcen, produced chaos in Greece and failed to save Roumania from disaster. The narrow and precarious corridor of a year ago has become the broad route of today, with several alternative railway lines and waterways. But for us the problem remains what it was from the beginning, save that it has become more difficult, and that the very success of our efforts in other directions makes Germany exert herself all the more in the Southeast. Germany’s land connection with the East must be cut, the Turks must be ejected from Europe, the 35,000,000 Slavs and Latins whom Germany is ruthlessly exploiting in a quarrel which is not theirs, must be set free to live their own lives without foreign interference. It is only by their emancipation that the Drang nach Osten can be effectually checked and the menace to European peace which comes from unsatisfied national feeling, allayed. The alternative is the rise of a continental power far more formidable than that of Napoleon, and threatening the very existence of the British Empire by its access to the frontiers of Egypt and of India, under changed conditions of naval war fare which every year may render more unfavorable to Britain.